We had the good fortune of connecting with Ivania Guerrero and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ivania, why did you pursue a creative career?
I grew up with four siblings in an apartment complex in Little Havana full of large immigrant families like mine. Surrounded by tough and rowdy personalities, it was very easy to get lost in the noise and blend in with all the other kids. The only difference was that I had this thing called dyslexia that made me feel different from the kids around me. Dyslexia actually became this thing that I didn’t want others to know about me because I was too ashamed. I would go out of my way and try to be invisible in the hopes of hiding a secret that I thought people would judge me for because I grossly judged myself through those lens every day.
Then around fourth grade, I saw one of my friends, Carolina, from the apartment upstairs drawing for fun. It was the kind of drawing that I had not seen someone around my age do before. She had talent, skill and creativity and was really serious about art. Once I started drawing with my friend, I was captivated.
I wasn’t serious about art until middle school, though. That’s when art took all the space in my life because I discovered my voice. Art opened up a safe space where I could allow myself to be vulnerable. Simply put: art saved me. And similar to Maya Angelou who stopped speaking for five years after a traumatic experience, I discovered that I left my voice, but my voice hadn’t left me.
As an adult, I feel responsible for using my voice to raise awareness about people that may not have the civil rights or tools to share their own experiences. It’s important for me to immerse myself in their stories and bear witness to their experiences, allowing me to show their humanity to all who have the courage to see it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Over the past few years, I’ve concentrated on ceramic figures and painting.
My recent projects are influenced by the immigrant experience and my connection to Miami as a basketball fan.
My work about immigration explores the displacement that I experienced as an immigrant wrestling between the imaginary borderlines of my native country (Nicaragua) and the country that I now call home. What interests me is how displacement blurs the lines between countries and cultures and leads to a fragmentation of identity. This split in identity made me feel like I was never exactly at home, yet I also didn’t have a sense of belonging to the place where I came from. Over the last few years, this subject has become even more important to me after families seeking asylum in our country have been separated and kept in separate detention centers that are in poor conditions. It’s important that we bear witness to the stories of these families who made the difficult and dangerous journey for a better future and are fighting to keep their families together.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m the worst person to ask because I’m a homebody and I enjoy having friends and family over for dinner. I would have to start right in my own kitchen where I combine Puerto Rican, Nicaragua, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Aside from that, it’s on to my parents’ house for carne asada, gallo pinto, and my dad’s delicious pico de gallo.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband is at the top of the list for encouraging me to follow my dreams and putting my dream first. My family and friends are also my supporters and cheerleaders (gracias a mi familia). They’ve been to every show. People like my sister and cousin volunteer their time when I’ve needed help setting up my artwork in galleries. My cousin, Marilyn, has also been a huge help by being my translator and helping me get my ideas in writing.
My brother, Michael, is also my biggest advocate for sharing my work. Although it can be terrifying, he challenges me to take risks and step out of my comfort zone.